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Four And A Half Stars For Bresca; Mexican Restaurants' Week In The Sun

<a href="http://www.elrayocantina.com"></a>
Cantina el Rayo

PPH's Nancy Heiser swoons over Bresca, calling 2011 James Beard Award finalist Krista Kern Dejarlais' 18-seat restaurant "enchanting." The enchantment begins with drinks, including "elderberry syrup over a sugared plump blackberry and finished with Prosecco" and finishes with two desserts, an "insanely delicious" buttermilk panna cotta and warm chocolate soup over berries, vanilla gelato and coconut sorbet, "a scrumptious sundae for grown-ups." In the middle:

"Smokey" bing cherries surrounded thin slices of marvelously spiced duck breast with velvety mascarpone polenta. For this dish, Desjarlais hand-mixes 12 different "Roman trading spices," some of which are cumin, ginger, cinnamon and fennel pollen. This was duck to die for.

Malcolm and Jillian, the couple who blog at From Away, have mostly good things to say about El Rayo Cantina, the new adjunct to El Rayo Tacqueria on the edge of the West End. Jillian pegs it as "a great place to get intoxicated. Not just drunk on liquor, but by the night, where you are so in the moment as to transcend ordinary time." Geez, we're talking a funky Mexican restaurant in Portland, Maine, here, not El Bulli. Malcolm is less rhapsodic, but still a fan: "Even if a few dishes are less successful, the sheer creativity on display in their preparation makes you happy to have sampled them."

Unlike El Rayo Cantina, Zapoteca, Taco Trio, Taco Escobarr, and Mesa Verde, Amigo's is not part of Portland's Mexican food renaissance, but who cares - when there's PBR on tap and decent margaritas. All The Bollard's Carl Currie has to say about the menu is that it's "damn tasty Mexican food at affordable prices." His fondness for this Old Port dive is endearing: "No bar has seen me pass its threshold more often without paying me to be there." Now that's high praise.

· Dine Out Maine: Superb Experience At Bresca [PPH]
· Cantina El Rayo [From Away]
· Drinking And Diving [The Bollard]
· Where The Elite Meet: The Tavern At Brunswick Station [The Golden Dish]

Bresca

111 Middle Street, Portland Maine